Long-listed for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize
After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me, her highly anticipated debut novel—a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.
Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy's immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients—including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.
As winter descends, the hospital's fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.
“Radiant prose...From this memorable novel's eerie first paragraph to its enigmatic ending, Laura van den Berg has invented something beautiful indeed.” —Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times
“...incredibly precise... Find Me is being compared to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. While it stands up to such fine company, I'd argue that van den Berg has a style, humor and grit that is all her own.” —Claire Cameron, Salon
“A thoughtful, touching story about survival - about finding ways to heal and reasons to live.” —Kim Hubbard, People Magazine
“Van den Berg depicts a life slowly coming into focus - it's blurry and impressionistic at times, sometimes deliriously scattered. But out of the fog of memory and the haze of drugs emerges a sense of clarity that's deep and moving and real.” —Michael Patrick Brady, The Boston Globe
“Spellbinding... Find Me is crafted to be consumed in small sips, though with a novel so full of mystery and surprise, the temptation is to gulp. Chapters are broken into short sections that jump between Joy's rocky adolescence and the present, yet feel rich and immersive. The book's second act is pleasurably unpredictable as we encounter oddball characters and bizarre situations... but here we also feel van den Berg digging deeper, delivering a mesmerizing and emotional experience that invites readers to, like Joy, savor life.” —Kelly Luce, O, The Oprah Magazine
“This elegiac debut novel by a hotly-tipped young American writer takes an ebola-style pandemic as the jumping-off point for a lingering meditation on memory.” —Nicole Lee, The Guardian
“An unforgettable and, against all odds, unique tale... Find Me eases into itself, and the deeper we venture into it, the more glorious the book becomes in its embodiment of doubt and self-scrutiny... van den Berg's debut is a keen examination of trying to live under the weight of that choice, and the weight of all else we can't choose.” —Tiffany Gilbert, Time Out New York
“This powerful debut about memory, loss and stories gets under the skin in a deeply unforgettable way.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A haunting exploration of loneliness.” —Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
“Marvelous.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“...the novel almost dares readers to escape into this weighty, dark world, where everything has unraveled and all the rules have changed, and see just what they can make of its rich emptiness.” —Christine Thomas, The Miami Herald
“A fresh spin on apocalyptic stories, Find Me beautifully evaluates memory loss and the stories we tell ourselves.” —Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post
“In addition to her clean, beautiful prose voice - a voice that makes you want to follow it anywhere - van den Berg has an urge as a writer that feels unusual in contemporary literary fiction: her stories have plots. Like her short stories, the novel borrows from the addictive properties of genre fiction and mainstream television. Surprising events happen in Find Me - there are inset stories, sinister characters, trouble lurking everywhere - but van den Berg's ability to render all of them with a high degree of psychological realism gives these twists and turns a degree of inevitability. Find Me has a psychological depth and a desolate, noirish gravity. The whole shimmering novel hangs together and propels the reader forward with its unusual brand of dream logic... By the time I closed the book, I knew Find Me's spectral visions of America would haunt me, and I knew I would want to read it again.” —Anita Felicelli, The Rumpus
“Her first novel is original - experimental, even - but written with remarkable clarity... Van den Berg blends the story of the strange plague with Joy's search for her lost mother into an intoxicating mystery.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC
“Gorgeously contemplative... Van den Berg's prose is honest and searching, an inquisitive tonic for a destroyed world. Questions plant themselves between paragraphs, unanswered, and curiosity steams through her book like a freight train of hope. Self-discovery has seldom felt like such an optimistic and essential pursuit as it does in the hands of Joy... impossible to forget.” —Hilary Leichter, Electric Literature
“...you'll be blown away by this quiet, affecting novel... Van den Berg's prose is sparse and vivid all at once. Some of her lines are so arresting that I wanted to underline them, mark up the margins with stars or exclamation points.” —Rebecca Kelly, Bustle
“...beautifully written... a multilayered story about all of that, with tangents about the internet and technology and how they, ironically, weaken our connections to others, while diving into ideas of memory that completely transcend sentimentality and nostalgia.” —Rebekah Kirkman, Baltimore City Paper
“In understated prose, Laura creates Joy's distorted and strange world. As we enter into that fictional world, we see that it reflects, in many ways, the real world where we find ourselves today. And in Joy's loneliness and desire to connect, we recognize ourselves.” —Kathleen Stone, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Laura van den Berg adds a fresh voice to the burgeoning genre of post-apocalyptic-plague fiction with her new novel Find Me. In this case, the sickness ravaging America isn't just killing people: it's also erasing their memories. Mysteries and metaphors are abundant...Van den Berg's careful, poetic prose will make you think hard about the damage we do to each other and to our world, and how we may be able to go about healing it.” —Rachel Sander, BuzzFeed Books
“We follow Joy, Van den Berg's protagonist, through this uncanny landscape, and a reader couldn't ask for a better, more compelling guide: she is equal parts frightened and confident, jaded and hopeful, resigned and mutinous. And this is Laura van den Berg's great strength: capturing with envy-inducing precision the fraught and fragile duality of human experience and connection. Her characters-like so many of us, like maybe all of us - often find themselves caught in Chinese finger traps, often of their own making, and it is something special on the page to watch as Laura van den Berg examines the ways in which they pull at the warp and weft.” —Vincent Scarpa, Tin House Online
“Joy's yearning is, ultimately, infectious... There's a gargantuan amount of tension built up at the end, like the previous pages were turns on a windup doll. It is as if, in the last two pages, Van den Berg lets go of her hold on the key, and the novel winds itself down in a breathless, beautiful scene where Joy, too, lets go. In the very last scene, ambiguous pronouns leave plenty of space for interpretation. Like with a poem, I love them all equally.” —Kinzy Janssen, The Riveter
“Find Me, her transfixing first novel, is in keeping with her short stories thematically, and yet, in its deep soundings, it's a commanding departure... Van den Berg's enveloping novel of a plague and a seeker in an endangered world reveals what it feels like to grow up unwanted and unknown in a civilization hell-bent on self-destruction. It is also a beautifully strange, sad, and provocative inquiry into our failure to love, cherish, and protect. But ultimately, Find Me is a delving story of courage, persistence, and hope.
” —Donna Seaman, Booklist
“This is one of my favorite novels of 2015, and we're not even in 2015 yet... Van den Berg's short story collections infused me with sky-high expectations for this debut novel, and I was not disappointed. The language is beautiful, spare, and carefully crafted, and the characters are fully realized and unforgettable. There is tension and redemption and insight and even humor in these pages, and they make for a really incredible read.” —Rebecca Schinsky, Book Riot
“All in all, these two texts crash through preconceived limitations of gender. They give us women's fiction that runs with the wolves.” —John Domini, Virginia Quarterly Review
“Recently, I was given an advance copy of Laura van den Berg's novel Find Me, out next year on FSG. It felt like the response to The Handmaid's Tale's call. The characters are very different, the worlds in which the novels are set are different, but the yearning of both characters, the driving grief, feels very much of a piece. Both novels offer precision of language and metaphor and scene even as what is being constructed feels messy, chaotic, sad, hopeless. Find Me's joy is speaking in parallel with The Handmaid's Tale's Offred. Both orphaned and alone in the world, both so completely real, both telling a story that feels important and exciting to read.” —Lindsay Hunter, The Millions
“...wild excursions into dangerous new environments populated by memorable oddballs, never losing sight of the emotional core of Joy's quest... In Joy, van den Berg has created a voice that never feels false, only lost and dreaming of being found.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Complex psychology... Van den Berg's writing is curiously beautiful, and her portrayals can also be disarmingly sensitive.” —Kirkus
“I ripped through my review copy in a week flat. Expect this unsentimental dystopian tale to be a blockbuster when it hits bookstores.” —Jessica Bryce Young, Orlando Weekly
“Laura van den Berg's debut novel is tender, psychological and mesmerizing. Joy's voice is a clear and contagious melody that will continue to stay with you long after you put down the book - begging you to hold onto all the things you've ever wished to forget.” —Freddie Moore, LitReactor
“A future-shock think-piece.” —Ed Power, Irish Independent
“Awe-inspiring.” —Nancy Carty Lepri, New York Journal of Books
“Find Me is haunting dystopian tale of memory and identity that impresses with its beautiful and precise language.” —David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
“...never before have I read a book that felt like it had me by the throat any time I opened it up. It's a particular sensation, a hand around your neck, and it demands a certain kind of attention: there's an intimacy that comes with the force. Find Me demands to be read, but it is right there with you, holding you close.” —Drew Broussard, Raging Biblioholism
“Find Me is written in such a poetic, natural flowing manner that the reader will find they do not want it to end, but they also cannot stop reading; such a difficult conundrum... What's left when she's finished is a beautiful tale about rising above the odds; finding oneself and taking charge of your destiny.” —Joe Toeben, As The Plot Thins
“...the story unfolds slowly through the protagonist's inaction and quiet, beautiful flashback...Van den Berg knows her way around a sentence, contemplation and subtle philosophy. It's through these lyrical passages that the point of this story comes about. What does it take to change and grow? Does biology dictate who we are? Does the world reflect itself onto us? Is it the horrors that were inflicted upon us?” —Mike Tager, JMWW
“Simultaneously whimsical and realistic, despairing and full of hope, dreamy and brutal, Find Me is a beautifully told coming-of-age story about how we come to understand ourselves and our past.” —Edan Lepucki, author of 'California'
“Find Me is bone-close, darkly funny in a world that is just plain dark and so beautifully written that you might just cancel your plans to stay home to read. Laura van den Berg is a lightning strike of talent.” —Ramona Ausubel, author of 'No One is Here Except All of Us' and 'A Guide to Being Born'
“Laura van den Berg's Find Me has it all - it's as concise and rich in language as a collection of poetry, and as full of suspense as a great thriller. This is a version of the apocalypse you haven't seen before - funny, beautifully mystifying and scary, and full of real heart and tenderness. Yes, Laura van den Berg, I will follow you and your characters anywhere!” —Dan Chaon, author of 'Await Your Reply' and 'Stay Awake'